‘Healthier and more balanced'
We each have different things that are important to us and the same can be said for Jurgen. In his hometown of Cadier en Keer, he is committed to various projects and associations. But Jurgen hasn’t been able work anymore since he developed the lung disease pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). That is why his volunteering activities mean so much to him. Jurgen feels much healthier thanks to a combination of good treatment for his lungs as well as his sleep apnea, and proper medication..
"After I came home from vacation in 2003, all I wanted to do was rest or sleep. I just thought I was tired from working so much," says Jurgen. But nothing was further from the truth. He learned at the hospital that his health was so serious, it was like he was living with a ticking time bomb. "Although I have played a lot of sports, I could barely manage to even ride my bike for a short distance. And no wonder. My normal blood pressure was much too high and there was too little oxygen in my blood,”
Jurgen was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). It is a progressive, chronic lung disease that causes high pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs, and results in very unpleasant consequences. "In those days, not much was known about the condition. In one fell swoop my life became frightening and uncertain."
An end to his career
For 20 years, Jurgen had worked as a planner at an installation factory along with 35 colleagues. That career ended suddenly because of the impact of his lung disease. "Not only did I have to deal with PAH, but I also suffer from sleep apnea, which means I stop breathing in my sleep several times in the night if I don’t use a special CPAP device." Jurgen went to Ciro for help with both diseases. In 2011 he went to the Ciro University Sleep Centre Ciro in 2014 Jurgen went for rehabilitation with one of Ciro’s partners.
Even after he received the best medication and proper dosage for his PAH condition, Jurgen continued to feel very tired. His doctor asked how well he was sleeping. "I had no problems, slept well, and was not snoring. But they referred me to the CiroSleep Centre to take part in a sleep study."
"As soon as I arrived in Horn, I immediately noticed the forest of pine trees and singing birds." After his intake at the Sleep Centre, Jurgen spent the afternoon reading and taking a walk on the grounds and enjoying the artwork. "After dinner I was permitted to go to sleep at 10:00 pm. An employee attached patches with wires to me as part of the research."
Eventually, advanced equipment measured his sleep patterns and an analyst followed the results to determine whether Jurgen’s breathing was regular or intermittent. They also made observations to see how well he was breathing and if there was enough oxygen in his blood.
The next morning after breakfast, Jurgen was told the results of the tests while he had slept. The Ciro professionals confirmed that he did indeed have sleep apnea, which he was surprised to learn. The tests revealed that Jurgen had stopped breathing 24 times in the night; once for one-and-a-half minutes. He was immediately given extensive instructions along with a CPAP machine to take home. It is a kind of air pump that keeps the airways open at night, and prevents the sleep apnea and breathing stops.
Jurgen quickly noticed a difference. "After two weeks, I felt much healthier and after two months it was; wow! If I have to give a percentage to show how much better I felt? Since using the device in combination with my medication, I feel 75 percent better than before I came to Ciro." However, Jurgen will still always need to keep in mind that he has limited energy.
Meaningful pursuits helping others, the community and nature
With his renewed energy, Jurgen wanted to do something useful with his time. So he became a volunteer for the foundation for the disabled, Eijsden-Margraten (PZEM). Jurgen lends a hand to the Society for Conservation Cadier en Keer as often as his health allows. "Every first Saturday of the month we work at the park as a team in the morning for a few hours, just like at the Wolf's Head. Acacia and other shrubs grow there that are not native to the area and are invasive. We cut them away so the area’s native plants and shrubs can flourish."
Acceptance of the condition
In 2014 Jurgen’s health continued to gradually decline. He missed exercising and wanted to get more out of life. "Fortunately, I was referred to Ciro again, this time for rehabilitation." Jurgen first passed the three-day initial assessment where he experienced many different types of tests. "I liked the challenges. They didn’t just test me physically to see how I was before, but mentally, to learn how it has affected me on a personal level."
"I didn’t think that I needed a psychologist, but I went to the appointment anyway. After several pleasant conversations I finally was told: "You have not accepted the fact that you are ill and are still in denial."
This assessment really hit home with Jurgen. "Nobody had ever revealed this to me before, but eventually the psychologist got through to me. I'm good at processing things and have learned to stop doing activities that take too much energy. The entire process has shown me that things needed to change. Now I am much calmer and lead a more balanced life."
Eventually Jurgen began recovering with one of our partners, Maastricht UMC +, near his hometown. This is where he has continued to work on his physical condition, often participating in group training sessions. "You have to be really motivated to start it. And in this process, the added guidance of the psychologist has been very important to me."
Jurgen felt that no longer being able to work is a real grieving process. "There should really be a focus on the stigma for people who are pulled from their work environment and labled ‘chronically ill.’ And Jurgen has also made a choice to help out in his volunteer work, which he does with pleasure.